The Sexual Expression of Women in Thomas Hardy's Writing
The nineteenth-century woman was defined by her adherence to submission and resistance to sexuality. She was portrayed by most writers as a naive, accepting figure with strong concerns about living up to the prescribed societal ideals for a respectable woman. The women in Jane Austen's novels offer a clear representation of the nineteenth-century woman. Austen refuses these women any sexual expression and focuses more upon their concern with marriage and society. Thomas Hardy resists Austen's socially accepted depiction of the female with his radically independent heroines.
Hardy redefines the role of women in his novels, focusing on sexuality. By emphasizing the physical aspect of femininity in his unorthodox representation of the sexual female, Hardy threatens the Victorian model of women. Sexuality is evident in Far From The Madding Crowd when Bathsheba unknowingly admits her passion to Sergeant Troy. "If you can only fight half as winningly as you can talk, you are able to make a pleasure of a bayonet wound!" Bathsheba realizes her impulsive expression of sexuality and when she attempts "to retrieve it," she makes the situation worse claiming, "Don't however, suppose that I derive any pleasure from what you tell me"(chapter xxvi). Allowing Bathsheba to disclose her sexuality, Hardy begins to emphasize the sexual qualities of his female character. In redefining the female, Hardy's passionate heroines display characteristics previousl y found only in male characters.
In The Return of The Native, Eustacia Vye combines the strength of a man with the beauty of a woman. Like the heath, Eustacia is untameable, dark, and wild. Her association with the heath illustrates her masculine qualities. The Victorian ideal displayed in...